So many weeks have been leading up to this moment. Sonograms, reading books and blogs, making a registry, building furniture, and installing a car seat. Finally your baby has arrived and after the very few days they let you stay in the hospital, you head home as a new parent. You probably just settled into the new rocking chair you got at your baby shower when it hits you, who let you go home with this baby? And where is the instruction manual??
All of the preparation you did and advice you received seems to be a blur. You remember hearing something about how your baby will just eat, sleep, poop, and cry, right? But you find yourself thinking, is that really all our days will consist of? I’m responsible for keeping this new human alive! What else should I be doing? How can I interact and connect with this baby now that s/he is outside of me!?
I am here to tell you that yes, the majority of those early days will follow the cycle of feeding, trying to function on broken up sleep, and changing diapers. But between all of that, there are actually some activities you can start right away to help you bond with your new child and add in a little excitement into yours and baby’s days. You’ll even be setting a good foundation for your baby’s development.
1. Tummy Time
While you may think you have to wait until baby’s belly button has healed or he has gained better head control to begin tummy time, that’s actually not true! You can actually start tummy time right away!
With close supervision, place your baby on a soft, firm surface to start tummy time practice. If you find you are struggling to lay your baby down on the floor or she isn’t loving tummy time just yet, try laying in a reclined position yourself and place your baby on your chest. Those beginning tummy time days may be easier when baby is listening to your heartbeat and feeling the rise and fall of your chest, mimicking many of the sensations she felt inside the womb. Incorporating tummy time into your daily routine from the very first days will help help baby be more comfortable as their tummy time practice increases. And remember, you don’t need to have 20 minutes tummy time sessions for your baby to get the benefits. Starting off with a few minutes at a time will help build endurance and comfort in this position.
This practice can begin as soon as baby’s belly button is healed, making it a wonderful activity to begin with infants. It offers so many benefits for both you and baby including bonding through the powerful sense of touch. Massage is also a full body sensory experience, building up the tactile system as your baby experiences touch all over the body and providing proprioceptive input helping to develop body awareness from this early stage. Research has also shown massage to help with better sleep quality and gassy tummies. To learn more about massage, check out my membership!
3. Gentle Rocking
This one is easy because I know from experience how amazing it is to hold that sweet newborn in those first few days. While you may think you are just embracing those sweet newborn cuddles, the gentle rocking up and down or side to side provides your baby with great vestibular input, helping build your baby’s sensory system right from the start. The vestibular sense helps your baby learn where her body is in space, builds body awareness, and develops balance. This gentle rocking motion is not only extremely soothing to baby, but it’s also super beneficial. If your arms get tired from holding your baby, another great way to provide vestibular input to your newborn is going for a walk with the stroller or use a baby carrier!
4. Skin to Skin Contact
Kangaroo care, or skin to skin, doesn’t have to stop after you leave the hospital. Once you and baby are home, it is still beneficial to continue skin-to-skin care. Baby will enjoy feeling the warmth of your skin and also help develop the tactile system (and helping baby process temperature). A great way to incorporate skin to skin time into your unscheduled schedule of the day is when you are feeding your baby. Whether you are a nursing or bottle mama, this is the perfect time to snuggle up close with your baby.
Transitioning to new parenthood is hard! There’s so much to do and learn and not enough time to even think about all the things you could be doing to bond together and support your new baby’s development. While it is overwhelming to all of a sudden be responsible for keeping another human alive, there are a few very simple activities you can do during your baby’s wake windows. Tummy time is an important one as this activity lays the foundation for so much of baby’s development over the next many months. Many babies don’t love tummy time, but beginning with just a few minutes at a time is a great way to start off and get baby used to this important position. Infant massage is a great activity for you to learn to connect and soothe your baby- learn all about it in my membership! Gentle rocking, whether in your arms, during a ride in a stroller, walking around holding your baby in a carrier stimulates the vestibular system and mimicks the movement baby felt inside the womb. This can be very calming as baby is adjusting to this new world. Skin to skin contact continues to be a great way to connect with your baby beyond your quick hospital stay. You can use feeding times as an opportunity to bring baby’s skin to yours. The newborn stage won’t last forever.
You got this! And take lots of pictures to help you remember- it will likely be a lot of blur from your lack of sleep.